Lemelson Foundation renews Invention Bootcamp funding at PSU
Author: Kavi Diaz
Posted: September 11, 2019

Portland State University’s Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science (MCECS) recently announced that The Lemelson Foundation has approved a proposal to continue funding the Invention Bootcamp 3.0 through 2021. 

 Currently wrapping up its fourth year, Invention Bootcamp is a free four-week summer camp that offers an authentic, pre-college experience at PSU designed to inspire high school students in historically underserved and underrepresented populations to go to college, pursue STEM careers, and be inspired to become inventors.

Camp participants learn the human-centered design process, engineering skills, prototype fabrication, entrepreneurship, teamwork and public speaking. Participants invent a device that is aligned with an annual theme that addresses a need or opportunity in their community.  

High school students are taught by engineering faculty and assisted by undergraduate students, who provide near-peer mentoring at the annual camp held at the Engineering Building. The students are also exposed to local industry experts.  

James Hook, MCECS associate dean; and Gerald Recktenwald, an associate professor of mechanical and materials engineering co-lead the camp, which partners with Oregon MESA on outreach and recruitment and Impact Entrepreneurs at PSU's School of Business on community engagement.  

“In a short four weeks, students have been inspired to identify challenges in their community, develop creative solutions and become more intellectually daring, while also gaining practical skills in invention, computer programming, basic electronics, mechanical fabrication, and oral presentation,” Recktenwald said. “Our goal is to start them on a journey toward college, cultivate a lifelong inventive mindset, and a career of economic impact and personal growth."  

Invention Bootcamp is an important strategy in accomplishing a key tenant of The Lemelson Foundation’s mission by ”improving lives through invention by inspiring and enabling the next generation of inventors.” 

Invention can be a pathway out of poverty and create life-changing opportunities for individuals from underserved backgrounds, and we are excited to be able to continue offering this experience to Portland youth, MCECS officials said.

During this year’s Invention Bootcamp, eight student teams created invention prototypes. They included a storm drain catcher that used a debris filter and overflow detection unit to prevent groundwater contamination; and an air quality monitor with sensors that calculated and displayed air pollution levels. Other projects included trash-collecting and street-cleaning devices, interactive lighting for public spaces, a smart recycling sorter, and street safety prototypes.